Germany legalises cannabis, but political noses are out of joint

With Berlin’s so-called traffic light coalition now blinking red, all eyes are firmly on Olaf Scholz

Christmas came early for German weed smokers on Wednesday when chancellor Olaf Scholz and his cabinet backed a long-promised plan to legalise cannabis.

The proposal, likely to be backed by Bundestag MPs next month, will allow German adults possess up to 25g of the drug legally – and buy twice that amount monthly as a registered member of so-called Growers’ Club.

German officials hope the plan for legal, high-quality cannabis will counter the black market, reduce health risks and ease pressure on German police, courts and hospitals.

Though Scholz admitted last year he’d never smoked a joint, his bulging post-holiday in-tray might persuade him to have a go.


He is under pressure over whether to send Ukraine long-range Taurus cruise missiles. As in previous debates over tanks, however, the German leader’s centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) is a house divided, forcing the chancellor to tread carefully.

Equally tricky is a row over whether Germany needs a large state stimulus plan to boost Europe’s largest economy and counter its technical recession. German economists of all hues are demanding Berlin spend its way out of the slump with state investment programmes.

After three years of emergency spending, however, Germany’s hawkish finance minister Christian Lindner wants Berlin to get back to balanced budgets. Rather than spend, the leader of the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) has demanded all ministries save. Among the howls of protest from SPD and Green-controlled ministries, none has been louder than family minister Lisa Paus.

Weeks after Mr Lindner slashed funding for her ambitious plan to cut child poverty, Paus got her revenge on Wednesday by blocking at cabinet his plan for a stimulus package of business tax breaks.

Such public spats mean it’s back to business as usual for the Scholz coalition. After a bruising pre-summer Green-FDP row over climate transformation measures, political and economic observers are predicting a grim autumn.

A growing chorus of critics are now asking when they can expect this Scholz leadership to emerge

German manager confidence, according to the closely-watched Ifo index, is down three months in succession. German voters are just as pessimistic: since taking office in 2021, an annual survey indicated that the percentage of Germans who are confident this government can solve the big problems of the day has dropped from 45 to 27 per cent.

With Berlin’s so-called traffic light coalition now blinking red, all eyes are firmly on Scholz.

Two years ago on the election trail, he promised voters that “whoever asks for leadership from me will get it”.

A growing chorus of critics are now asking when they can expect this Scholz leadership to emerge. While that camp sees his hesitation as weakness, however, Scholz and his loyalists insist it is a sign of strength.

Challenged on the latest delayed decision on Taurus missiles, Scholz told ZDF public television on Sunday: “Decisions must always be weighed up carefully, that is what I will continue to do.”

A trained lawyer and passionate rower, the 65-year-old said that he was “the pacemaker” in the government boat who “keeps things move forward”.

“But we need a clear path that can be seen,” he said, something many think is lacking. Just 19 per cent of Germans, in a ZDF poll, think that Scholz is presenting concrete answers so that things can move forward.

For political scientist Albrecht von Lucke, the Scholz era to date is a political paradox.

“He makes auto-suggestive claims that the country is doing well but people think the opposite,” said Mr von Lucke, publisher of the Blätter journal for German and international politics. “Scholz is unable to keep his coalition in line because there is no line.”

Other analysts warn that an extended period of political turbulence in Germany could have dramatic consequences in state elections this autumn – and European elections next year.

“This coalition uncertainty – and a leading opposition party that can’t get itself together – is all helping the [far-right] AfD,” warned Prof Klaus Schubert, political scientist at the University of Münster.

Even as the AfD hits 21 per cent in opinion polls, four points ahead of the SPD, the chancellor told a popular podcast on Sunday that Germans need to chill.

“As a society,” he said, “we need more composure.”

As of next month, 50g of legal cannabis per person – roughly five joints a day according to public health websites – may help with that.